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Sunburst Teachings

Three Horses and a Lone Poppy

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by Ischa Beharry

There they stood, majestic, commanding, glorifying the entire hillside with their immense beauty, three magnificent horses, while a beautiful lone poppy bloomed in full majesty on the Wheel of Life trail silently proclaiming to all, “Welcome!”

It was a late February morning as Sharon Ray led our silent procession to the Wheel of Life, an exercise in Mindful Walking Meditation, styled after the precepts of Thich Nhat Hanh. A cosmic blessing indeed to watch the pretty lone poppy as if proudly declaring, “Here I am – alone, yes, but here to offer joy and bring a smile to the faces of all who enter upon this sacred trail.” And smile we did!

As we stood on the hilltop in reverence of Divine Mother’s Nature, Sharon reminded us of the necessity to slow down, to observe, to feel nature and “listen.” And that we did for on our way down the hill on our way to the sanctuary temple, there stood the three gorgeous horses, looking directly at us and as I “listened” their voices in unison conveyed the message to me, “We bring blessings of the Divine Father to you.”

Weeks later, a large group of us made another procession to the Wheel of Life Seed Ceremony led by Sean Fennell. And what were we sowing? Poppy seeds! Could it be a Divine call from that lone poppy that she needed friends? Could it be Divine Mother’s blessing that she recognized just how much we appreciated her lone poppy child and wanted us to create a glorious poppy community? Whatever it was, it was all wonderful, for as retreat participants made their sacred seed offering at the Wheel of Life – sowing symbolically the seeds for the future flowering of their innermost hopes and desires – we knew with conviction that Spirit had heard our prayers and proclamations.

Having explained the Wheel of Life and its significance spiritually as our inner journey, and physically as our outer journey in the world itself, Sean talked about the spiraling nature of our inner journey and showed amazing physical examples of spirals in nature, some of which (a conch shell and pine cone) powerfully captured the message that all life forms, including us humans as well as the orbiting planets and galaxies themselves, are always moving and expressing their spiraling nature.

Once again, the same three horses stood majestically in the exact location they had for the Mindful Walking event weeks earlier, as we proceeded down the hill toward our lodge area. Inwardly, I felt that Divine Spirit and the Ancient Elders of this sacred Chumash land were showering countless blessings upon us and our sincere efforts through these events to bring back Heaven on Earth, right here, right now.

Nourishing rainfall did not deter the afternoon’s planned outdoor events, for in its place an incredible Permaculture movie was shown that created an atmosphere of great anticipation and excitement as participants later eagerly planted trays of vegetable seedlings. These were to be taken home for infusing their own gardens under the guidance of Sean Fennell.

Little Eli, Sunburst’s most adored resident, was, of course, the most eager of all as he dug into the compost, playing with it, wanting to plant also but too young to do so. So thrilled was Carmen, one of the participants who had brought about twenty friends to the event, that she hugged Sean and said to him, “Thank you so much. This is the best birthday I’ve ever had!”

And as Sean humbly put it, “This is our gift to you for gifting us so greatly with your eagerness to learn, your loving presence, and the joyfulness that you and your friends all brought to us at Sunburst.”

Two months filled with many treasured memories of wonderful people, incredible energy, and great learning, blessed by three stately horses and that glorious lone poppy!

Enjoying Silence

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By Valerie King

elephant2AdjAmidst the lush green landscape of Sunburst Sanctuary in late February, about fourteen people gathered for a silent retreat weekend. The elephant image shown is one of the group mandalas that participants enjoyed co-creating together. We also practiced walking and sitting meditations, listening to singing bowls, a grounding yoga session, and mindful eating, There was plenty of free time for rest and solitude

Everyone learned to carefully listen to and be ever so grateful for the sounds of life which are always all around, like the crunching of our footsteps, the singing creek, the croaking frogs, or simply our rhythmic breath. Silence in a group was powerful and soul-nourishing, transforming participants and facilitators alike with deep peace and strength to move forward in life.

What a necessity this kind of experience is, especially in these times on our planet. We hope many more people will be able to experience this healing retreat in times to come!

misty-morning_silent-retreat

The Silent Retreat inspired me to write this poem.

Like a fish who longs for the waters,

As soon as I step into silence

Your Presence

Is so tangible.

Roaring around and through me…thick Air,

Thick with Spirit Divine.

You are always here,

Permeating every particle of my being,

Enfolding me in the Matrix of your Being,

Silence brings it to the fore

Sweet yet utterly powerful Om.

To be still is to Awaken.

Participants commented:

This is my new favorite retreat and one that will feel new and different each time I do it since the silence takes me on a unique journey.
– Michelle

I loved this opportunity for intentional silence. To be around other positive, intentioned energy without having to fill the space with narrative; to be able to work on creating more space within myself while not feeling secluded or alone—what a magical concept!
– Breana

The retreat was well conceived and planned; wonderful activities and the freedom to engage or not.
– Laura

sunrise-over-pond

Renounce Ego and Enjoy Life!

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By Craig Hanson

Craig-profile-photoTo renounce the ego is a little different than what we may think of as renunciation. The Upanishads say that letting go of ego is not a renunciation of life; it’s a renunciation of all those things that make us unhappy—anger, selfishness, and desires for things or people, desires for money, for relationships, or to be recognized.

What is ego? I think of it as being like a grain of sand in an oyster. The grain of sand is irritating. It causes development of layers and layers of belief systems and sense impressions around it, eventually becoming a sphere of what we identify with. The ego builds up this whole concept of what we think we are.

I find when I’m working during the day, if I’m not staying centered on the work at hand. I’m thinking about results—thinking, “I want to get this job finished, so I can go on to something else.” This is ego talking. Or, when I get done, if I keep looking back and thinking, “Oh, that’s a great job. I hope someone notices my beautiful work.” That’s the ego talking. Oyster on the Beach

The ego is a slippery little guy. It has all this inner dialogue. It can look at a person and all of a sudden form a judgement: “Well, that’s probably somebody I wouldn’t want to know.” Ego creates a whole culture of stereotypes that we’re familiar with. if we watch the news, we’re constantly confronted with it.

The ego has created what we see in movies, and in our daily lives. But, we can look at our lives and ask ourselves how we’ve really enjoyed life over the years. What experiences have we found most enjoyable? Looking back upon my life, I see the most joyful times are when I’m giving a present, or making a gift for somebody. I’m not thinking about how much I’m going to receive for this; I’m just giving it. I’m not thinking, “If they don’t like it, then I can always get it back and resell it on e-bay.” My ego has had those ideas, but I had to say to myself, “Let go of that thought, and bring it back to center.”

Each of us is exploring our inner world and learning to use our God-given abilities to bring heaven on this earth. Whatever talents or gifts we have, let us remember to give those gifts unselfishly, for the enjoyment of others and the inspiration that we might give to others. This is our true enjoyment.

A Kriya Retreat and a New Year Treat!

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By Ischa Beharry

The first evening approached with participant’s rapt anticipation. A sumptuous light dinner, a social circle and welcoming of guests was to follow, culminating in gentle, relaxation yoga. Sunburst’s beautiful lodge was exquisitely decorated for the holidays with soothing warmth radiating from its native stone fireplace. The stage was set; ending 2016 and Screenshot 2017-01-23 16.54.19ushering in 2017 would be the full script. The Light and Renewal Kriya Retreat was about to begin!

After Emily led us in warm introductions, Valerie shared some highlights from the history of Sunburst, starting starting with a little boy’s childhood visions, his years in Paramahansa Yogananda’s ashram at Mt. Washington (Self-Realization Fellowship headquarters, Los Angeles, CA). Years would pass before countless young souls sought Norman Paulsen, to learn about his experience of God, and how they might also know God. Yogananda’s request to Norm became reality in the birth of Sunburst. Valerie also introduced Sunburst’s eightfold path and twelve virtues.

Screenshot 2017-01-23 16.54.47Friday was a day of silence and deep contemplation, a class on Hong Sau technique, yoga, amazing meals and meditations. Saturday was a memorably soul-nourishing experience as everyone gathered for the Kriya Initiation ceremony at Sunburst’s temple. Fresh flowers, fruits, and soul-stirring song set an energetic framework for the sacred Kriya initiation.

One can attend dozens of these initiations, yet feel renewed each time at all levels of one’s being. The final highlight of the day was a sacred seed ceremony at the hugeScreenshot 2017-01-23 16.59.56
lodge fireplace. Gone would be the karmic baggage of 2016, offered into the fire for transmutation! And into the ethers were sown the seeds of individual intentions for 2017—an experience of joy, peace and fulfillment.

But wait, the party part of the evening was about to begin! A sparkling apple cider bar provided drinks for toasting “Happy New Year!” Those who chose to stay past midnight were served Ischa’s secret
recipe chai. What fun it was to stand in a gratitude circle and usher in the New Year, and to send into the ethers planet-wide blessings. January first 2017 dawned to the offering of a light breakfast, Energization Exercises, and an inspiring Sunday service. Time to visit over a generous Sunburst brunch followed, ending a perfect weekend, a perfect retreat, a special treat!

Permaculture As Spiritual Practice

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By Sean Fennell
At Sunburst I employ the principles of Permaculture to observe how I live daily, how I connect with the wisdom of the Earth, with myself and with others. This is the outward journey, having been sculpted inwardly through my practice of the twelve virtues and the eight-fold path of conscious living.

Sean FennellThis practice supports a continual path of transformation and growth in my everyday life. It helps me approach ordinary activities in extraordinary ways.

Where Spirit, Nature and people meet in oneness in activity, as well as in non-activity, is that place where I find my center. Permaculture is the marriage of the spiritual with the natural and social and is, therefore, one of the highest expressions of spiritual practice.

Permaculture begins with the individual, and is contingent upon one’s thoughts, ethics and beliefs. This, in turn, is what one can fully utilize in creating a sustainable way of life, starting from the inside out.

By employing the benefits of meditation, deep self-reflection, time spent in nature and group interactions, one’s creative expression and endeavor can translate into a life that’s fun, rewarding and sustainable for oneself, for others, and the Earth!

“If it’s not fun, it’s not sustainable” is the Permaculture mantra.

Sean demonstrating the permaculture method of planting trees.

Sean demonstrating the permaculture method of planting trees.

Permaculture and Virtue – A Perfect Marriage 

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By Ischa Lea

The backbone of our spiritual practice at Sunburst is the application of  the Twelve Virtues in our lives: Charity, Faith, Loyalty, Patience, Honesty, Perseverance, Temperance, Humility, Courage, Equanimity, Continence, and Compassion. This makes for balance, peace, and inner joy — the barometer of all spiritual success. Likewise, the application of these virtues with the Twelve Principles of Permaculture and Permaculture Ethics ensures success in our outward endeavors at Sunburst.

A successful Permaculture project is contingent upon the application of Spiritual Principles, whether we use such terminology or not.

Charity resonates with the Permaculture Ethics of Fair Share and People Care.

Faith and belief in our endeavor creates the motivation for success.

Loyalty among participants ensures steady commitment.

Patience is critical, for even the best designs and objectives in Permaculture are still subject to extremes in environmental conditions.

Honesty is important — As in spiritual practice, we must walk our talk.

Perseverance in meditation and living in virtue ensures spiritual advancement; likewise, perseverance in Permaculture and living in integrity ensures generational rewards.

Temperance in spiritual practice ensures balance; in Permaculture balance ensures that no strand in the Web is broken or weakened.

Humility in spiritual practice ensures that we’re not acting from our lower ego selves; likewise, humility in Permaculture ensures that we are open to suggestions, respectful of other’s opinions, and are able to “hold hands with each other” and work together toward our common goal.

Courage is critical: Spiritual advancement requires courage, patience and perseverance. Likewise, Permaculture cannot survive as a practice without courage, patience and perseverance.

Equanimity in spiritual practice means overlooking obstacles and maintaining even-mindedness in our goal to achieve enlightenment. In Permaculture we are faced with doing the same in order to maintain symbiotic relationships that ensure successful outcomes.

Continence, the practice of self-control, ensures the conservation of vital energies necessary for higher meditational practices. Likewise, self-control is necessary in Permaculture — it ensures that our goals and visions do not exceed our physical capabilities.

Compassion may sound simple; yet, in spiritual practice our ego selves can often propel us into being critical and judgmental rather than compassionate and understanding. Likewise, in Permaculture, without a loving and compassionate relationship with the Earth and each other as we work toward a common goal, there can be no successful rewards.

In the end, Permaculture at Sunburst is Spiritual Practice!

Permaculture and Virtue

Ischa during Sunburst’s “Permaculture As Spiritual Practice” workshop

Exploring Soul Growth Through Mandala Painting

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By Ischa Lea

What an exciting day it was at Sunburst Sanctuary on Saturday, May 28th as Reverend Ron Gibbons guided all participants through a meditative journey of soul exploration through mandala painting. Signifying the wholeness of creation, the word mandala is derived from Tibetan Sanskrit. Mandala translates “to be in possession of,” or “to know oneself.”
IMG_3559_MandalaWorkshop-crop-768x437A well-seasoned teacher on this topic, Reverend Gibbons touched on some of the historical aspects of mandalas reflected in both Eastern and Western renderings. He said:

Representing the order beneath the change and apparent chaos of our lives, it is the invisible thread that ties our existence into a living net, or the spokes of our turning wheel. It is then the relationship between the individual and his life situation, the seeing of the relations between things, and the vividness of life as it is.

The mandala is universal, with one constant, the principle of the center. The center is the beginning and origin of all forms and processes, including the extension of form into time. Nature paints for us the most magnificent mandalas in flowers, snowflakes, galaxies, the rings of a tree, even the eye, all emanating from the grand center of creation, the mind of God.
The speaker’s words and the visual slide show inspired participants to enter their “inner garden” during a guided meditation. Some amazing revelations emerged, and were later shared—unique experiences coming from a Higher Self. A personal mandala rendering by each participant expressed this significance, no matter one’s artistic talents.

IMG_3564_Mandala-copy-768x512A mystical, magical time, it was as evidenced by the healing that occurred for one person, the overall clarity that most experienced as it pertained to their present life situations, and the overall excitement and joy that pervaded the room.

One cannot but feel the childlike anticipation of intrigue that further inspirations might hold. We continue to meditate and embellish our individual works of art, or create new ones. A joyful, healing and meditative journey of exploration still unfolding, one must reflect in awe the power of the mandala. And, as Reverend Gibbons cited:

2016_05_28_mandala-workshop_03-rev-300x200The center of the mandala is not only the external constant of space, but also of time. The center of time is now, living totally in the now of one’s existence is to unfold like a mandala.

 

The Light Divine

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By Ischa Lea

What is this light that within glows
A thousand rays in all direction goes
What is this peace, this joy it holds
That none can explain, merely concur
If to him, to her its witness shows?

Darkness if there be, matters not
Its presence made invisible,
Vulnerable, inconsequential, weak
For in this light is held the joy I seek
Yes, this light powerful yet so meek

O great light, soother of souls
O devourer of ego, of falsehood all
Bare we become, stripped to the core
As a young babe in our mother’s arms
Pure love to receive, O light divine

Where there is love there can only be light; where there is light there can only be joy; where there is joy there can only be peace; where there is peace there can only be God; where there is God, there can only be virtue; where there is virtue, there is only pure consciousness; and where there is only pure consciousness, there lies bliss, there lies the one, the all, the beginning of the pure light we once were and the light we are again to become. This is the beginning, the journey, the end.

2016_01_01_labyrinth_08-768x512

Leaving a Legacy

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By Ischa Lea

A dear friend, Rita, once shared with me one of the best questions one can ever ask oneself when adversity strikes: “Lord, where have I not been in integrity.” My humble friend never realized what great teaching she was imparting to me. Those words, simple yet profound, are my friend’s legacy. On par with any enlightened teacher, they continue to hold deep roots in my consciousness, a benchmark for my own self-scrutiny and a gift worth sharing with all.

The month of January was not only a new beginning, but held a reminder to the world of the legacy of a great man, Martin Luther King, Jr. Wherein lay his greatness? Like Mahatma Gandhi, he, too, noted the suffering of his own brothers and sisters. Yet, like Rita, King and Gandhi were not embittered souls seeking revenge or wasting time casting blame. They opted to do something noteworthy instead. They opted to walk the path of peace, love, and integrity. Both leaders followed the commandment of the Master Jesus to “turn the other cheek,” to offer love where hatred was commonplace.

I have so often questioned, “What could I possibly leave as a legacy?” The one thought that continues to override all others is that I must practice vigilance by asking myself in all instances, “What would love do?” Granted, the emotional side of my being does have its occasional outbursts; however, subsequent actions are usually guided by deep introspection—guided by “What would love do?” I’ve come to that place where I do not “beat myself up” as much, dwelling on “Where did I go wrong? Instead, I do my best to prevent unhappy outcomes.

The following poem was lovingly provided to me by a dear brother at Sunburst from the obituary of someone he knew. Tony Johansen’s legacy to the world resonates of a great soul, full of love, kindness, compassion, and wisdom. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., he, too had a dream for our world.

What Would It Feel Like

What would it feel like
Not to live in a world gone haywire
Where everything we did
Gave to the world
More than we took from it?

What would it feel like
If we woke up in the morning and
The feelings of despair were gone
And we leapt from the bed
Eager to contribute the next thing
To the great turn around?

What would it feel like
To climb on your bike
Or walk to the bus
Instead of the car
To dig up an asphalt parking lot
Plant a vegetable garden
A duck pond, a small forest?

What would it feel like
To read to the blind, tutor a child,
Push a wheelchair
Knowing your few needs were met
And worth was measured in love
Not money
To sit quietly and listen
To those in conflict
With themselves and others?

What would it feel like
To bring the stillness of your own heart
To the turmoil of another’s heart
Gentling their waves with your calm
Letting their waves pass
Through you and away
Like wind through bamboo?

Tony Johansen

Pause machen